8 Tips and Hacks for Getting the Most Protection From Your Sunscreen

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We all know we should wear sunscreen every day no matter what, whether it’s sunny, cloudy, hot, or cold. But more than 50 percent of Americans never apply sunscreen, perhaps because it takes time and can cause messy hands, smelly bodies, and acne breakouts. Since protecting our skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays can prevent skin cancer, wrinkles, and liver spots, read on for ideas to make wearing sunscreen a breeze.

1. USE THE RIGHT TOOLS.

Some sunscreen manufacturers engage in deceptive marketing tactics that can confuse customers. If you’re using a subpar sunscreen, you can't be confident in your choice of skin protection. Choose a mineral-based, broad-spectrum sunscreen (containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) with an SPF between 30 and 50. Check the date to make sure your sunscreen hasn’t expired, and apply it to your skin 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside for maximum effect. Sunscreen companies use different scents and amounts of oil, so experiment to find a smell and texture you like.

2. WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING.

Don't rely on your sunscreen (and your willingness to reapply it properly) alone for protection. Invest in sun-protective clothing, made with fabric that blocks UVA and UVB rays, or wear regular long-sleeved shirts, lightweight pants, and full coverage hats when you’ll be in the sun for long periods of time. Pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson told Today that she supports wearing sun-safe clothing as a way to reduce the amount of skin that needs sunscreen—for both you and your kids. “Then, in areas of their body you can't cover with UV protective clothing, that's when we think, yeah, we want you to use sunscreen and use it judiciously,” she said.

3. KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN.

Many people’s sunscreen aversion stems from the fact that applying the lotion leaves your hands feeling gross and oily. Instead, consider applying with a cotton ball or cotton pad. Squirt sunscreen on a cotton pad, spread it over your face and body, and then dispose of the cotton pad. Or try a roll-on, powder, or spray sunscreen, which can also help keep your hands clean. If you use spray sunscreen, remember to close your eyes and hold your breath while applying it so you don’t inhale harmful chemicals.

4. LINK IT TO ANOTHER MORNING HABIT.

If your current morning routine doesn’t involve sunscreen, you can change that without too much effort. Immediately after you complete a task you do every morning—brushing your teeth, making coffee, or taking a shower—apply sunscreen. This will make it easier to remember to do so.

To cut down on steps, consider using a cleanser or moisturizer with SPF protection. Just make sure that the products you use have ample SPF, and bring a regular sunscreen with you so you can reapply during the day.

5. COVER YOUR EYES AND LIPS.

Don't forget to shield your eyes and lips from the sun. Get in the habit of wearing sunglasses whenever you go outside, and make sure your shades have broad-spectrum sun protection. Wearing the right sunglasses will help lower your risk of getting skin cancer on your eyelids or melanoma on the retinas in the back of your eyes.

And your lips may look different than the rest of your face, but they’re skin, too. Wear a lip balm with ample SPF protection every day. Dermatologist Marla Klein, who treats patients at Klein Dermatology & Associates in Oregon, tells Mental Floss that she often sees patients who have protected their faces with sunscreen but not their lips. “Many people have chronically chapped lips, which is how actinic cheilitis presents in the clinic," she says.

6. STEP INTO A SNAPPYSCREEN BOOTH.

SnappyScreen is an automated booth that covers you in sunscreen in just 10 seconds. Currently available at a handful of resorts in the U.S. and Caribbean, SnappyScreen may head to public pools, water parks, and beaches in the future.

7. VISUALIZE WRINKLES AND SCARS.

If the health benefits of wearing sunscreen aren’t sufficient motivation for you to wear sunscreen daily, think about your future appearance. Visualize your face with sun spots, wrinkles, and melanoma scars to deter you from inaction. “UVA rays change the elasticity of your skin … [without sunscreen,] you’re going to get more wrinkly and you’re going to look older, faster,” Swanson says to parents who want to motivate their teenagers to wear sunscreen.

8. BE STRATEGIC ABOUT TIMING.

Depending on where you live, UV rays are stronger at certain times, usually between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If possible, spend less time outdoors (in direct sunlight) during those peak hours. Check UV Index maps and forecasts for your area to plan your outside time for when it's safest.

This piece originally ran in 2016.

Turn Your LEGO Bricks Into a Drone With the Flybrix Drone Kit

Flyxbrix/FatBrain
Flyxbrix/FatBrain

Now more than ever, it’s important to have a good hobby. Of course, a lot of people—maybe even you—have been obsessed with learning TikTok dances and baking sourdough bread for the last few months, but those hobbies can wear out their welcome pretty fast. So if you or someone you love is looking for something that’s a little more intellectually stimulating, you need to check out the Flybrix LEGO drone kit from Fat Brain Toys.

What is a Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit?

The Flybrix drone kit lets you build your own drones out of LEGO bricks and fly them around your house using your smartphone as a remote control (via Bluetooth). The kit itself comes with absolutely everything you need to start flying almost immediately, including a bag of 56-plus LEGO bricks, a LEGO figure pilot, eight quick-connect motors, eight propellers, a propeller wrench, a pre-programmed Flybrix flight board PCB, a USB data cord, a LiPo battery, and a USB LiPo battery charger. All you’ll have to do is download the Flybrix Configuration Software, the Bluetooth Flight Control App, and access online instructions and tutorials.

Experiment with your own designs.

The Flybrix LEGO drone kit is specifically designed to promote exploration and experimentation. All the components are tough and can totally withstand a few crash landings, so you can build and rebuild your own drones until you come up with the perfect design. Then you can do it all again. Try different motor arrangements, add your own LEGO bricks, experiment with different shapes—this kit is a wannabe engineer’s dream.

For the more advanced STEM learners out there, Flybrix lets you experiment with coding and block-based coding. It uses an arduino-based hackable circuit board, and the Flybrix app has advanced features that let you try your hand at software design.

Who is the Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit for?

Flybrix is a really fun way to introduce a number of core STEM concepts, which makes it ideal for kids—and technically, that’s who it was designed for. But because engineering and coding can get a little complicated, the recommended age for independent experimentation is 13 and up. However, kids younger than 13 can certainly work on Flybrix drones with the help of their parents. In fact, it actually makes a fantastic family hobby.

Ready to start building your own LEGO drones? Click here to order your Flybrix kit today for $198.

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12 Smart and Simple Kitchen Hacks

Merlas/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Merlas/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Use these quick and simple tricks to save time in the kitchen and make cooking easier—and safer.

1. Put a damp paper towel under your cutting board.

Take a paper towel, wet it, wring it out, and place it under your cutting board. This will keep the board from slipping all over your counter and allow you to cut more safely. You can put a damp paper towel under mixing bowls to keep them from sliding around, too.

2. Use cooking spray on your cheese grater.

A person using a cheese grater
Whichever way you have your grater positioned, a little cooking spray will make the job easier.
vinicef/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Before you start grating cheese, lay your grater down on its side, which keeps it from moving around and catches all of your cheese in once place. Then spray the surface with the cooking spray of your choice. The oil lubricates the surface and makes grating easier, especially for sticky cheeses.

3. Put felt glides under countertop appliances.

Not only will this save your countertops from getting scratched, but it also makes oft-used appliances easier to move when you need them.

4. Put a spoon on top of boiling pasta water.

A person holding a spoon with penne pasta over a pot of boiling water.
Foam be gone!
Andrii Pohranychnyi/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Does the foam of your starchy pasta water boil right up out of the pot? There’s a simple fix: Lay a metal or wooden spoon over the top of the pot. According to Gizmodo, this method works because the foam is “thermodynamically unstable," so when the foam’s bubbles reach the spoon, they burst, "breaking the layer of foam and sending all the bubbles collapsing down again.” If you opt for metal, though, make sure to use oven mitts to remove it from the top of the pot—it will be hot.

5. Keep dental floss handy.

You can use it to cut soft cheeses. “If the cheese is small, you can hold it in one hand while your other pulls the floss taught and does the cutting,” cheesemonger Nora Singley writes at The Kitchn. “For larger situations, place cheese on a surface, shimmy the floss beneath it, and simply slice up, holding both ends of the floss and crossing the two ends to complete the cut. Then repeat in equal intervals.”

You can also use non-minty dental floss to cut cookie dough, burritos, and hard-boiled eggs; slice melons and layers of cake; to tie things together; and get food unstuck from baking sheets.

6. Preheat your baking sheet.

A baking sheet in the oven.
Pre-heating your baking sheet saves time.
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If you’re making something like French fries or roasted veggies and your baking sheet is hot right from the get-go, you won’t have to go through the process of flipping your food later. Plus, both side of your food will be evenly browned and cook faster.

7. Save burnt pans with a dryer sheet.

Have you charred a pan so badly that the food you're trying to cook essentially became a part of the pan? Before you throw the pan out, try tossing in a dryer sheet, adding warm water, and letting it soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Then wash with soap and water as usual, and the burned bits will come right off. Karen Lo at Food52 writes that “It feels like an absolute miracle—because it is. But, according to lifestyle reporter Anna De Souza, it’s also ‘likely the conditioning properties of the dryer sheet’ that do the trick.” If the burn is really bad, Lo says you can use two dryer sheets and hot water for severe cases if you’d like, and let it soak overnight—use your judgment.

8. Leave the root end on your onion when cutting it.

A person holding an onion by the root end and dicing an onion with a knife.
Leaving the root end of your onion on gives you something to hold onto while you're dicing.
andreygonchar/iStock via Getty Images Plus

This method is a game changer: It allows you to dice your onions safely and quickly. First, according to Real Simple, you should cut the top off of the onion; then lay the onion on the now-flat top and cut the vegetable in half through the root. Next, peel off the skin, being careful to leave the root attached. Take half of the onion and lay it, flat side down, on the cutting board. Holding on to the root end, slice the onion vertically in strips of your desired size, without cutting through to the root. Then slice in the opposite direction to dice. When you’re done, save the root end of the onion to make stock.

9. Use a Bundt pan when cutting corn.

When you’re cutting corn on a flat surface, the kernels tend to fly everywhere messily. But if you hold the ear of corn—pointy end down—on the center of a Bundt cake pan, then rotate as you cut, the kernels will fall neatly into the pan.

10. Put away your potato peeler and use this method instead.

A pot of boiling water with potatoes.
dashtik/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Peeling potatoes is time-consuming and wastes delicious potato. Instead, use this potato peeling hack from Foody Tube: Make a small cut into the skin around the circumference of the potato, then boil it. Once the potato is cooked, peel the skin off. It’s that easy.

11. Keep your plastic wrap in the fridge.

When it’s cold, plastic wrap is easier to handle and less likely to get stuck to itself.

If getting plastic wrap to stick is the issue, wet the rim of whatever you’re trying to cover before putting on the plastic. The water will help it cling to the surface.

12. Use magnets to hold down parchment paper.

Two rolls of parchment paper on a white surface.
Keep parchment paper from rolling up on your baking sheet with this clever trick.
Viktoriia Oleinichenko/iStock via Getty Images Plus

To keep parchment paper from rolling up on baking sheets—and therefore making it incredibly difficult actually to put anything on the sheet to cook—Le Cordon Bleu-educated pastry chef Amy Dieschbourg uses magnets to hold the paper in place. Once everything is on the paper, remove the magnets and get cooking.